Name: Terri Coleman
From: newark, NJ
Grade: High School Senior
School: University High School
“…I am odd, I am new. I wonder if you are too. I hear voices in the air. I see
you don’t, and that’s not fair. I want to not feel blue. I am odd, I
am new. I pretend that you are too. I feel like a boy in outer space.
I touch the stars and feel out of place. I worry what others might
think. I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink.” I am odd, I am
new was a poem released by the National Autism Association written by
a little boy named Benjamin. In 2016 I had the honor to work with a
group of kids with autism ages 18-21. For seven weeks, once a week
myself and a group of others volunteered with 24 autistic children.
“I say I feel like a castaway. I dream of a day that’s okay.” In our modern
society kids and even adults with autism tend to be treated
differently as if they are some kind of alien. In reality, they are
regular human beings just like us. With that said, my job at New
Jersey Regional Day School was to make the group of teenagers with
autism feel like just teenagers; teenagers who like to dance, talk,
hang with friends, and just make them feel like they belong just as
much as everyone else. Initially my biggest challenge when I first
went in was I thought I would have issues bonding with the children.
But after going in there was like an instant connection. After
gaining that connection it literally brought tears to my eyes knowing
how these human beings were being treated due to one minor
difference. In addition, while volunteering I met one of the most
caring and dedicated teachers in the world. Mr. B was one of the most
admirable person I have ever met in my 18 years of living. I would
hope to one day have such passion and dedication towards my career
path in the near future.
This may seem cliche but, through this volunteering experience I have learned in
depth not to judge a book by its cover. Just because someone does not
look like you or act like you does not mean you don’t have
commonalities. “I try to fit in. I hope that someday I do. I am
odd, I am new.” Change I seek to foster is helping others
understand that just because you are a little different does not mean
you have to be treated different. 10 years from now I do believe my
service would have made a difference. When these children look back
and think of me they will remember she treated me like I was supposed
to be treated: like a human being.